Columbus police officer teaches american sign language

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- To serve and protect, it’s the motto for law enforcement across the U.S.

Having an officer who is fluent in sign language is vital.

In conversations, police are the bridges to de-escalating a situation.

Corporal Glen Jenkins is the interpreter for Columbus Police.

After learning American Sign Language as a teenager, he later assisted the deaf community on the force.

“You never know when you’re going to encounter someone with the opposite language,” said Jenkins.

On average, Jenkins assists the hearing impaired at least three times a month.

“It lets them feel that you’re there for them and not just everybody because you’re focusing on this one situation,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins is training most of the officers to use sign language. With a diverse and growing community, it’s vital for the deaf community to communicate with the police.

“Since we encountered multiple individuals that are hearing impaired, I believe it’s a good thing for us as police officers. I believe, due to us learning sign language, it will be a good opportunity,” said Melvin Shirley with the Columbus Police Department.

Chief Fred Shelton says it’s vital to accommodate everyone in the community.

“If there’s a part of the community that has a disability, it’s good that we have people at our department to meet those needs. These are the ones that are most vulnerable and that people may attack more often because they can’t normally call 911 or let people know they’re being hurt,” said Shelton.

The goal is to have most officers fluent in American Sign Language in the coming months.

The department is looking for more interpreters in ASL and other languages.

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